Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I just found out this morning that Herb Dirks died.

God sent Herb to the Earth via Germany before the Second World War, and he suffered during that conflict and never recovered from it. He saw people burned alive and took a rifle butt to his head. He was a good boy, but he stuttered and became a prisoner of war as a youth. God drew him to Himself through much pain. It is through much tribulation that we enter into the kingdom.

Herb came to our Bible studies when we held them at our home. He was big and thick, like a tank, and powerful with his accent and that ferocious stutter. He wore his hair in a crew cut, or grew it out white like a wild man—these two styling options. In the wild phase, his hair stood tall like Wolfman Jack’s. He would not have known The Wolfman, however; he strove to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified.

Herb shaved irregularly, and this, combined with his other traits, frightened nearly everyone. He talked loudly and inadvertently spit. I met him in his latter fifties. Herb slapped you on the back with tears in his eyes and loved you like a bear; he cried so easily. He prayed for you always and followed up by bringing you things. When my family was struggling, in he would march with a watermelon, or pop, or a bag of groceries—always crying, always pressing toward you, forever loving you.

No one loved God more, or cried more, or felt more. Herb was like Jesus, so sensitive to the world was he. Every moment throbbed with meaning for Herb. He was unfathomable because of this, and, unlike Jesus, occasionally overbearing. We sometimes fought. He commandeered Bible studies. When Herb took the floor, the floor disappeared. Simple questions had Swiss-gearing answers, beginning in Genesis One and ending somewhere in Revelation. Herb drove me crazy. He spit on our rug. He inadvertently insulted unfortunate guests. (This came from knowing only Christ, and Him crucified.) There was nothing to do but sit back and sigh—and try to stay within grasping distance of Herb’s train. If you heard only half of a Herb Dirks speech (the national average), you prospered. You visited the sanctuary of God and met Christ.

I told him I stuttered, and we fellowshipped around that. He loved me for confessing it, and wept for my confession. It was Herb who told me minutes before my first public address: “Get up, speak up, shut up.” He saved me that day. That was thirteen years ago, but I recall that mantra still, whenever I approach a podium.

Herb mourned the adulthood of his daughters. There were no earthly beings more precious to him. He took his young family to so many scripture conferences. He missed that so much when his daughters grew up and married. He hated it when they all got jobs that took them away. He pined for the days when those little girls needed him, when they held his big hand. Herb’s wife, Barb, had diabetes and seemed tired all the time. She was never that well when we saw her, which was rarely. She preceded her husband in death by three years.

Herb must have died slowly in the nursing home. Three years in a nursing home, thirty-five miles from my home. Thirty-five miles, and I never once visited him.

And so I go to my bedroom now, and cry.

God have mercy on me.

© 2006 by Martin Zender